Wednesday, September 30, 2009

that photo I mentioned

This is the Grapes of Wrath photo I mentioned a couple of days ago.

From left to right, top row is my Aunt Shirley ("Shirb"), my Aunt Imogene ("Dean"), my Aunt Beverly, ("Bev"). The middle row are my Aunt Louise ("Weez"), my Gramma ("Baumbaum"), my Grampa ("Dad"), and my Uncle George ("Judd"). The bottom row are my Uncle Thomas ("Tom") and my dad, Wilford ("Bill").

Yes that is my dad sticking out his tongue. I wish I had a copy of the photo without the invitation printed on it.

Note: CLR is a game that involves rolling dice and passing your one dollar bills around the game. The one with the most dollars at the end of the game, wins.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

she does love to play ball

Dear JoJo,

I know you know that I know how much you love to play ball. You must have inherited your desire for nonstop fetch from your mom whose owners warned us that your mom would play fetch all day. And night. And day.

We smiled and murmured things like, "We've never had a dog that would fetch," and "How fun would that be to have a dog that would bring the ball back when you toss it for her," and "How cute!"

We had no idea what all day and all night and all day fetching really meant. Jack is certain that there are days--weekends mostly--when he tosses the ball for you from his recliner so many times that we lose track of how many times he tosses the ball for you to fetch. And you always go get it and trot back, wagging your tail wildly when you catch the toss, obviously pleased with your improving skills.

But sometimes Jack's arm needs a rest, so he simply pushes the ball off the arm of his recliner and that is when you spring into the TV room and snag that slowly rolling ball, as proud as if you'd caught a line drive.

And when Jack's arm was too tired to even push the ball off the arm of his recliner, you invented a new game called hide the ball and dig it out. It seems that you enjoy digging for the ball even if it's inside the TV room and only buried under the edge of Jack's recliner.

But what is the newest game all about? What is with the holding the ball between your paws on the floor, licking the ball, chewing the ball, and then attempting to hide the ball between the TV and the wall so that Jack or I have to get up and reach way back to retrieve the ball for you? Seriously, licking the TV? What is this?

Not going to explain, are you?

Monday, September 28, 2009

random thoughts

1. Yes that was me falling down, so fast in slow motion tonight at the end of my driveway, trying to get to JoJo's ball before it got to the street with her running behind it after she escaped from the house, into the garage, amazingly stopping long enough to jump in the truck when I called her and opened the truck door, but dropping her ball so it rolled down the driveway towards the street, which for some reason, caused me to go after the ball instead of simply closing the truck door while she was inside of it. Once again, I was startled by how quickly I went down, all of the while thinking it was happening in slow motion and surely I could right myself before I hit the ground, but succeeding only to cause more wrenching of the muscles and grinding of the bones that will become more apparent by tomorrow morning when I am more stiff than usual upon arising. I'm convinced that I did not hit my head, but did hit my arm with my belly or ribs or something because they were smarting as I sat in the gutter assessing my tangled, twisted limbs. You are, I'm sure, relieved that JoJo did not run into the street.

2. Saturday, after the family shindig, I got to spend time with Breanne and Janey at their house while their parents went to a concert and holy cow was it fun. We chatted nonstop, ate Skittles, read books, and spent the usual hour or so figuring out the dvd player/tv configuration so we could sing silly songs with the Sesame Street bunch. I realized that evening that one of my absolutely most favorite things in the world, even the universe, is a grandbaby who has just emerged from the bath, been lotioned and dressed, who is allowing me to towel dry her hair, up close to my face so I can see and smell and enjoy the look and scent of a freshly-washed child who I love more than life itself. Those freckles and eyes and skin. Such a treat. So pure, so fresh, so real, so wondrous.

3. After the girlies went to bed, I realized I hadn't brought anything to do with my time--no book to read or study, no sudoko to work, no computer to play on, so I opened up Jessie's laptop--an Apple/Mac product, a bit unfamiliar to me--and realized she had her facebook account open so I could look at the accounts of many of her friends, some of whom it turns out, are also my friends. You see, just last week I thought that perhaps it was time for me to join the world of facebook. I probably looked around for an hour or so and while it was fun to read about the activities and events in the lives of people that I haven't seen for years, it didn't take too long for me to realize I can't be a facebook gal. I don't think I'm capable of tweeting either. Too few words required. Too many gadgety things on facebook. Too busy, too much to respond to, too many people to tend to, too many questionaires and quizzes and games, too many, too much, too, too, too. Not for me. I need more depth. More time. More words. Not that I'm making any kind of statement about all of the zillions of people who love the facebook and the twitter. I'm just not one of them. I'm a blogger. A long-winded blogger. And after closing the door to facebook, I spent the next hour or more drafting letters to people I need to thank on paper.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

family memories and tales

Yesterday was my dad's family reunion--all of his living brothers (1) and sisters (2) and their children and their children and their children at a lovely little park in our hometown. The reunion was a delight. My dad's family has always had a zest for life and an eye for a good time. They are generous people with kind hearts.

I've always loved being with my dad's family. He had four sisters and three brothers but his oldest sister and oldest brother didn't always live with the other siblings because my gramma was married to two other men before she married my grampa. (Which, if you think about it, is a little reminder that people really aren't so different now than they were 100 years ago.)

My cousin, Linda, sent out the invitations to the reunion this year. She printed them over a picture of my dad's family when they were all kids--probably around 1935 or so. The picture shows all of the kids sitting around my gramma and grampa--girls in flowered print dresses and boys in overalls. And you can pick out my dad easily because he's the ten-year-old who's sticking out his tongue. My gramma always called that picture their "Grapes of Wrath" picture because they looked like a family of dirt poor okies. Her words, not mine. I think they look more like my cousins than my aunts and uncles.

As soon as I got to the reunion, I was surrounded by concerned family members asking about Stu's health. They were all relieved that he had received a liver as soon as he had and that his recovery was going so well. (Note: Stu and his family missed the reunion because of concerns about being in a large crowd, but to let you know how good he is feeling, he may be tired today but he and Shi spent yesterday afternoon making and sealing 20 bottles of salsa from tomatoes, peppers, and herbs from their garden.)

One of the people who came up to me was a man who looked familiar, but I couldn't figure out who he was. He approached me and said, "The last time I saw you was in the back seat of a Porsche."

The summer that I turned 16, my family took a road trip to southern California. It was the first and only such trip for us and we hit all of the required fun spots, but my favorite memory is from the last night we were there. We drove to San Bernardino to visit my dad's oldest brother, Bob, and his family. It happened that we showed up on the 21st birthday of Bob's son, Bruce. For his birthday, Bruce's sister and her doctor boyfriend bought tickets to a Linda Ronstadt concert for Bruce and a date, and also planned to cover dinner before and drinks after the concert. How lucky was Bruce when his geeky, 16-year-old cousin from Utah showed up that afternoon just in time for his dad to insist that Bruce would be delighted if I would accompany him to the concert and all of the other planned happenings that evening.

Happenings doesn't adequately describe the events of that night. It started when Ginny's boyfriend showed up in his Porsche and Bruce and I somehow crammed ourselves into the back. Might have been better for Bruce had I been his girlfriend, but at least I was a small-framed 16-year-old, so even if he didn't get to squish up close with his girlfriend, at least he had some extra space, right? The excitement continued as we headed onto the LA freeway at the same time as Ginny's boyfriend's buddy in his Lamborghini. And as everybody knows, if you have two competitive guys driving their fast cars and it's only 4:30 in the afternoon in LA, you can hit speeds well over 130 mph on the freeway as long as the cars are built to weave in and out of traffic and can seriously hug the road. We arrived at the restaurant in a flash (or maybe less than a flash) and gracefully exited the cars for a delicious dinner of fresh salads and fresh fish and wine. Well, they all had the wine, I had Pepsi, which at the time, in Utah, was nearly scandalous for me. Next we piled back into the cars and raced to the Universal Studios amphitheatre for a great concert. That Linda Ronstadt has some pipes. I'm not sure, but I thought she was wearing a cub scout uniform--the shirt and blue shorts and knee socks and all--but I could have been wrong. Whatever it was, she looked pretty good.

I figured the night was pretty much done after that. But I was wrong. I think we went to at least two or three bars before we ended up at the Playboy Club. In LA. When I was 16. Barely. From Utah. Holy cow. I had never had that many Pepsi's in one night.


At the reunion, my cousin Linda said that the night before, during dinner, she kept telling her brother, Steve, that he was wrong, it couldn't have been Bill & Jeri's girl who was in Vegas with him, it had to be someone else, but Steve kept insisting it was me. I think she quoted him saying, "Dammit, Linda, I know my cousins and it was her."

The summer between my jr and sr years in high school, my high school band headed to Vegas for a parade. My parents made me promise to get in touch with my cousin, Steve, who was a pit boss at The Tropicana. It happened that our motel--motel, not hotel--was a couple of blocks from The Tropicana, so as soon as we got some free time, I lead a bunch of other underage band geeks down the side of the road to hook up with my cousin.

Don't know what I was thinking, taking a bunch of underage kids into the casino, but Steve was delighted to see us (and by us, I mean me, his cousin), and after we chatted briefly (and he escorted me and my underaged cohorts from the casino before he got fired), we made a plan for him to pick me up for dinner on the last day of my band tour. I begged my band director to let me go, assuring him that there would be no repeat of the previous summer when I missed the bus after a band trip to the local amusement park. Steve would get me back in plenty of time to load the bus and head home.

Steve picked me and and we headed to the MGM Grande where we were quickly seated and then played keno and had drinks--more of the evil Pepsi for me. When it was time to order dinner, I couldn't decide what to order, so Steve ordered for us--something foreign I'd never even heard of--lox and bagels. I was a bit apprehensive, but Steve was right, it was delicious. We laughed and ate and played keno and had a great time. But as you may have already guessed, we didn't allow sufficient time to make the drive back to the motel parking lot and we arrived just in time to see the bus pulling onto the highway. I was surprised by how quickly those yummy lox and bagels turned to cement in my belly. But Steve said not to worry, we would just follow the bus and when it pulled over, he'd stop and I'd get on and all would be fine. Before too long, the bus pulled off the highway and into the parking lot of a small souvenier shop. Band geeks piled out, eager to be first in the bathroom or to spend their last bit of money on Vegas Strip snow globes and tiny ceramic slot machines, while I begged Mr Talcott to please, please, please, let me on the bus. He pretended to shoot himself in the head but eventually moved away from the bus doorway, and I trotted back to Steve's car to tell him he could leave, I was going to be allowed back on the bus. Steve shrugged his shoulders and said he hadn't been that worried about it. He figured that if I missed the bus, we'd just hang out until I was ready to leave and then he'd have bought me a plane ticket to fly home. I never did tell him that my mom would have never allowed me to fly home. She had insisted on driving to Lagoon to pick me up when I'd missed the bus the previous year, and if she'd had time to get as steamed as she was when she showed up then, I couldn't even imagine how furious she'd have been after driving all of the way to Vegas.

I suspect that if I'd missed the bus from Vegas, I would have been better off to just get a job at the casino and begin a new life there. And I suspect that would have been okay with Steve.

Friday, September 25, 2009

i'm serious, this is serious

Yesterday when Jr learned the name of his affliction, he told me he thought he might start answering his phone with a hearty, "Oink, oink?"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

things are still happening around here

I know it might seem like life stood still while we lived at the hospital with Stu for just less than two weeks. Or perhaps it just seems like the garden adventures have stopped since he left the hospital. Neither of those would be accurate. These are some of the recent activities:

The day Stu got the call (which is technically pre-hospital, but actually just blurred into the whole hospital experience), I got a great deal at a yard sale on eight chairs and a dining room table that has two leaves and can seat at least twelve. For $100. You just look at this and tell me I didn't get a great deal:

You might not be able to tell from this photo, but this table is like having a conference table in my diningroom. It will be perfect for dinners that include the whole family and lots of food because there will be room for everybody around the edges and room for all of the food in the middle.

While downloading the table photo, I found these photos of my kitchen while Jr baked pies on my birthday:

As you can see, it was a baking flurry.

And speaking of Jr. He's been diagnosed with type A flu, which according to the doctor at the Instacare is in all likelihood H1N1, aka swine flu. He's had a sore throat and is now coughing and sneezing and feverish and runny/stuffy nosed, and is quarantined for four days. He got sent home sick from college.

And now the drummer has a sore throat. Holy cow.

Oh, but did I mention that I escaped from the math class? Sometimes you just have to cut yourself a little slack. Math and hospital stays are simply not compatible. Unless you count hours of sudoku as math. Because if sudoku is math, I've done hours and hours of math.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

in case you haven't heard

4.5 hours of surgery--$1000s
2 CT scans--$1000s more
2 liver biopsies--one through the veins into the liver and one directly into the liver--$1000s more
13 days in the hospital--$10,000s more
countless medical team members--$10,000s more and more
numerous prescriptions--$10,000s more and more
30 staples and all kinds of tubes and lines in and out of a body--$10,000s more


Seeing my once again flesh-colored kid with white in the whites of his eyes, the recipient of a miracle, sitting on his own couch in his own livingroom watching his Utes play football only 13 days after said transplant--priceless.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You be the judge

It may be that I'm tired. Perhaps I'm physically, emotionally, mentally, bloggingly, friendishly, momishly, daughterishly, wifely, grammaly, studently weary. Completely spent. Used up.

Or, maybe it's just that I've lost my mascara someplace in my car and I just look really tired.

Monday, September 14, 2009

and still

After the biopsy (all good) and the tri-phase CT scan (all good) and the blood cultures (so far so good), and the kick-butt dose of prednisone, the docs don't know why Stu's enzyme levels jumped higher, but today, everything is trending in the right direction, he is eating solid food, is no longer tethered to the IV pole, and he is looking forward to checking out maybe as soon as Wednesday.

On a lighter note, Jack and I have enjoyed visits from Ellie and Audrey the past couple of days, if you ask Audrey what the weasel says, she'll tell you the weasel goes POP, and tomorrow we will celebrate one of the best days of my life with one of my favorite people.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

and then today

When asked this morning how he was feeling and how his night went, Stu responded, "Good. Really good."

Points to consider:

1. Yesterday's liver biopsy showed slight rejection.
2. Anti-rejection medication level was too low.
3. Four units of ffp (fresh frozen plasma) take some time to get into a body.
4. Liver enzymes are still considerably higher than pre-transplant.
5. Almost certainly there will be more bumps in the road ahead.

But always remember:


Friday, September 11, 2009


Two things--

Stu has a PICC--periforally inserted central catheter.

And I forgot that he still has a JP drain--Jackson-Pratt drain--which is still poking out of the side of him, draining excess fluids from his belly, but it is hidden under his gown and blankets, so I forgot it was there.

One other note: yesterday, his liver enzymes were up, which is likely an early indication of rejection so the docs upped his anti-rejection meds but the levels are still up this morning, so he'll be having a liver biopsy sometime today to check on the new guy and make sure his accommodations are acceptable. While the elevated enzymes have set off the really loud alarms in my mind, the surgeons assure us that some level of rejection is expected and they like it when the biggest issue is rejection because they know how to treat it with medication.

We (by we I mean I) just have to trust the team. Again. Still. Always.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

holy cow

Stu has one IV--a pick?-- going into his body.

One IV.

Only one IV.

Five days after receiving a new liver, he is down to one IV that can be used to obtain blood or insert medications or whatever, but it is the only thing remaining from the multitudes of things that were inserted into him, taped to him, or otherwise attached to him just last Sunday morning.

We all continue to be amazed at his speedy recovery.

And I am amazed that in the past day, three different liver transplant recipients have come to see him. One, the father of a high school friend, another one he met at transplant support group meetings, and the other a friend of his next door neighbor. Each one has a different story, but apparently Stu has now joined a remarkable club of survivors.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

two thoughts from Stu

Stu occasionally operates a spotlight at a local live theater and that's what he was doing last Saturday when he got the call from the transplant team. On his drive home from the theater, he was following a car along the main road that his street turns off of and the driver of that car slowed down, pulled to the side of the road, and allowed Stu to pass him. Then the driver pulled out and followed as closely as he could behind Stu. That's when Stu realized he had probably been following the other driver too closely.

At least the guy didn't follow Stu onto his street or into his driveway, but Stu did wonder if the other driver would have been so quick to anger if he'd known about the call Stu had just received.


During the time Stu spent in the intensive care unit, I spent a fair amount of time in the ICU waiting room with family members of other ICU patients. There was an older woman who was struggling to figure out her cell phone so she could contact the adult children of her companion because the doctors said they needed to make an "end-of-life" decision and she just couldn't do it by herself. She tried to reach several of them and finally made contact with a son who couldn't seem to understand what she was saying because she had to keep repeating herself, finally breaking down in tears, in what became at least a twenty-minute call.

There was a 40ish woman whose husband had been driving his car and did something that annoyed another driver. For some reason the two drivers pulled over, got out, and her husband ended up unconscious, after striking the back of his head on the ground.

There was also a teenage boy in the ICU who had flesh-eating bacteria, which sounds like it was as bad as it could have been, but I watched as his mother and father, clearly no longer spouses, came into the waiting room to discuss something. It quickly turned into a war, the woman spitting venom at the man, him ignoring her, resulting in more venom spewing from her fangs and a total dismissal from him. Later that day, they returned, this time with reinforcements. The waiting room was turned into a sad clown circus production.

It was awful.

The warring parents were still there when we left the ICU for the last time, their boy headed for the hyperbaric chamber again. The wife of the road rage victim/participant was still waiting in the waiting room.

And Stu said that the morning after his surgery he saw a line of adults filing past his room who, it appeared, had just said goodbye to their father for the last time.


It occurs to me now, and maybe I should have realized this a whole lot sooner, but the ICU is an intense place for many reasons. It is intense and scary and overwhelming and not very often joyful. Few patients go in there and come out in a better situation.

So many people. Too much of the tragedy of life.

But every now and then so amazing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

quick update

The doctors and nurses and all involved continue to be delighted with Stu's progress. Several of the major tubes have been removed, he is walking laps around the hospital ward, and he wishes he could have more than ice chips, but until his new connections heal, nothing can go through the system, so everything he swallows and anything his belly makes on its own is immediately vacuumed out through the tube in his nose into the container on the wall.

Too graphic? That's nothing. Medical science is amazing.

So is my kid.

Sunday, September 6, 2009 to start this blog

1. I've wondered for many years how the events of the last 18 hours would play out.

2. How do you thank someone for choosing to selflessly give life to another during a time of what must be intense grief for the giver of that gift?

3. I'm sitting in the ICU with my firstborn, who has more tubes, wires, and monitors than I've ever seen going in and coming out of one person.

4. Stu called last night and said the transplant team called to tell him a liver was available.

Any of the above would be a suitable beginning to this post, which I will try to keep brief.

The transplant team became aware of a donor liver last night around 8:00, when it was apparently almost too late to use the liver, and because Stu was a match and because he lives close enough to the hospital to get here in time for the transplant, he moved to the top of the list.

Jack and I met Stu and Shi at the ER around 8:30 and were immediately sent to the 10th floor where his pre-op preparations began. At around 10:00, his surgeon performed the procedure to obtain the donor liver in a hospital about 50 miles from here, travelled with the liver to this hospital, and then began Stu's transplant at 3:45 am.

After nearly six hours of surgery, his surgeon came out and told us the surgery had gone very well. She said the liver was beautiful, it fit perfectly, and Stu had come through without needing even one transfusion of blood, which is not the normal liver transplant. His surgery took less than six hours rather than the usual 8-9 hours because he is thin and young and healthy (except for the failing liver), and she expects his recovery to be smooth and quick and he will likely go home in less than a week.

I cannot begin to imagine the emotions today of the family who so generously donated, and I cannot express the way it feels to once again see my son with healthy pink skin and clear whites in his eyes after less than 12 hours with a healthy liver in his belly.

Somehow, this long-dreaded event has come and passed and continues.

Friday, September 4, 2009

can you hear that sound?

What? You can't hear it? You can't hear the stunned silence that never, or at least rarely, surrounds me right now? Yes, that stunned silence is me, trying to overcome my disappointment in my first math test score--

If you must know it was 51.8% out of 100%, which is mathematically speaking, a big failing F except my school doesn't give lower than a failing E, which is what I have so far in the class when you average my homework scores with my sucky test score--an overall grade of 61.something-not-high-enough-to-even-be-a-D+, which is a dee plus, not a dee plus something else like we say in math when we type the + key, aka the shift = key.

You know how when you start a class, at the beginning of the semester and there are so many kids in the class--bright, smiling, hopeful faces of kids? And then after a week or two, there are less smiling faces and more faces that seem to be beaten down or ground up and after the first test, the class size is somehow reduced to maybe 3/4 of its first day size? And by the midterm, the class is half of its original size?

I could never understand how that happened. I often wondered what could make a kid decide after a week or two or after a single test that a class was going so badly that she would stop coming to class (but I always hoped she had dropped the class at least so her mom wouldn't have to pay for the E she would get).

Now I know. For the first time ever, I thought about dropping a class after the first test. I wondered who I thought I was, taking--no begging--my way into a Math 1050 class when clearly I was not prepared for such a difficult class. And even more clearly, who did I think I was, supposing I could get through this and successfully finish the class in December with at least a B? And who are those smarty-math kids who are doing so well that they keep going back to their computers everyday, keep visiting the MathLab online and keep getting way higher scores than me?

But just that quick, I thought, I am Gilian. Gardener of the web. Blogger of tales long and short, funny and sad, good and bad. (And perhaps a bit of a poet--I mean, that did rhyme, right? Okay, well, let's not go that far.)

But I am an adult with a mind and a brain and I like a challenge and really what's the worst that could happen?

Hmm. I could fail the class and retake it.

Ohhhhh-- so painful.